Sweatshops: Foreign Exploitation or Creating Occupations?

nike-sweatshops

As Americans who have grown up in a first world country, the idea of working in a factory performing tedious work for long hours and receiving little pay is unpalatable, and many classify this as a form slavery. The U.S Department of Labor classifies said factories as sweatshops, which are defined as “factories that violate two or more labor laws,” (DoSomething). However, for poor people in developing nations, sweat shops are often their best option, and without these factory jobs available, they would be worse off.

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As the video illustrated, “sweatshops are what allowed people in now thriving places like South Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong to pull themselves out of poverty.” After working at so called “sweatshops,” many of the employees made enough money to go off and start their own businesses, an achievement that would have been impossible to reach in an area with such little opportunity. Furthermore, these factories provide cheap labor for US companies, lower prices for American consumers, but most importantly, they provide jobs for people in developing nations, and give these destitute people a chance to better their standard of living. It is because of these benefits that the Kenyan representative in the video stated “they [college students] have no idea what they re talking about,” when she heard news of students protesting and boycotting businesses that made their clothes in sweatshops. Although the college students being interviewed claim their “goal is to raise the wages across the board,” she believes the protests will force corporations to move those factories.

In an article written in the Library of Economics and Liberty, Professor Benjamin Powell describes that, “All too often the fact that we have better alternatives leads first world activists to conclude that there must be better alternatives for third world workers too,” (EconLib). This phenomenon explains why so many protestors are against sweatshops, and they do so with good intentions, but unfortunately, their actions have caused unintended negative results.

The video tells of how “American complaints about child labor persuaded factories in Bangladesh to stop hiring adolescents. The results, according to Unicef, were that many of the young girls turned to prostitution instead.” No matter how bad American protestors claim sweatshop conditions are, a life in the sex industry is much worse. What American idealists fail to realize is that in developing nations, sweatshops are often one of the best options people have to earn a living, and protesting will only take those options away from those who need them most. So the moral of the story? Think before you protest, and be prepared to be held accountable for the consequences of your actions.

 

Sources:

https://www.dosomething.org/facts/11-facts-about-sweatshops

http://philebersole.wordpress.com/2012/03/13/the-debate-over-asian-sweatshops/

http://www.econlib.org/library/Columns/y2008/Powellsweatshops.html

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